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Covenant Communities

Unit 3: The New Covenant Community


(Lessons 9–13)

A Chosen People
November 8
Lesson 10
DEVOTIONAL READING:
DEUTERONOMY 10:10–15
BACKGROUND SCRIPTURE:
1 PETER 2:1–17
PRINTED TEXT:
1 PETER 2:1–10
LESSON AIMS
After participating in this lesson, each student will be able to:
1. Summarize Peter’s description of the life of “chosen” people.
2. Explain the metaphors in Peter’s description, showing their relevance to modern society.
3. Suggest one specific way to “declare the praises of him who called you.”
HOW TO SAY IT
Agrippa. Uh-GRIP-puh.
anticarcinogen.an-tee-kar-SIN-uh-jen.
Corinthians. Ko-RIN-thee-unz (th as in thin).
Herod. HAIR-ud.
Hosea. Ho-ZAY-uh.
Jerusalem. Juh-ROO-suh-lem.
levitical. leh-VIT-ih-kul.
Lo-Ammi. Lo-AM-my.
Lo-Ruhamah. Lo-Roo-HAH-muh.
Messiah. Meh-SIGH-uh.
Pantheon. PAN-the-ahn.
Zion. ZI-un.
DAILY BIBLE READINGS
Monday, Nov. 2—Chosen Out of All People (Deuteronomy 10:10–15)
Tuesday, Nov. 3—A Happy People (Psalm 33:4–12)
Wednesday, Nov. 4—Hope in God and God’s Love (Psalm 33:13–22)
Thursday, Nov. 5—Chosen as God’s Witnesses (Acts 10:34–43)
Friday, Nov. 6—A People One in Heart and Soul (Acts 4:31–37)
Saturday, Nov. 7—Free Servants of God (1 Peter 2:11–17)
Sunday, Nov. 8—God’s Own People (1 Peter 2:1–10)
                                                            
anticarcinogen an‐tee‐kar‐SIN‐uh‐jen. 

Pantheon PAN‐the‐ahn. 
KEY VERSE
You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may
declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
—1 Peter 2:9

INTRODUCTION
A. BUILDING PROJECTS
“Measure twice, cut once.” “Fresh paint covers a multitude of mistakes.” “A job worth doing is
worth doing right.” These and many other axioms form the folk wisdom of remodelers and their
construction projects. One engaged in such work soon learns, however, that slogans must be
backed up by the right tools, quality materials, a good plan, and practiced skills.
Unfortunately, many church buildings look as if they have been thrown together over the years
by amateurs with little advance planning. To achieve quality results in building projects requires
the patience, diligence, and planning abilities of a skilled builder. The true craftsman will not use
cull lumber or sloppy workers. The master will not proceed with half-baked plans. The true
artisan will not hurry the project to conclusion by cutting corners or compromising the design.
The New Testament sometimes pictures the church as a spiritual “house,” an edifice
constructed by God for his glory. Paul uses this construction metaphor to picture the church as a
temple built on the foundation of the apostles with Jesus as the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20, 21;
compare 1 Corinthians 3:9–11).
God is the master craftsman with the perfect plan. We are his building material, and he has
refined us and sanctified us through his Spirit to be just as he desires. We are built by God to be
his chosen household, his holy habitation, or dwelling (Ephesians 2:22).
B. LESSON BACKGROUND
In the ancient world, building construction was much more difficult than it is today. There
were no big-box construction supply stores in Jerusalem or Rome. There was no precut lumber
or pre-hung doors.
Abandoned structures provided the most readily available construction material, particularly in
terms of their stone blocks. If one was building a structure out of stone, it was much easier to
take a block from an older building, clean and dress it a bit, and use it immediately. The
burdensome alternative was to find a nearby source of suitable stone, set up a quarry operation,
and transport blocks to the construction site.
There were cheaper alternatives to stone buildings, of course. Tents could be lavish and
spacious, but these lacked a sense of permanence and grandeur. Bricks could be made on site if
the right type of soil was present, but bricks might be limited in size and function. Wood was
adaptable for many purposes, of course. But most of the forested areas surrounding cities had
long been harvested. So large amounts of timber usually had to be imported from considerable
distances (compare 1 Kings 5). Wood was susceptible to rot, and therefore it lacked the
durability of stone.
All things considered, then, there was no substitute for stone when erecting grand public
buildings such as temples. An example that Peter was familiar with was the Jerusalem temple as
reconstructed by Herod the Great. Herod’s builders reconstructed the foundation of the temple
mount using massive “ashlars” or foundation stones. The largest of these that survives has
dimensions of 12' x 12' x 48' and weighs an estimated 400 tons. Even the most ambitious of the
temple destroyers since Herod has been unable to budge or crack this monolith.
While Peter does not mention the Jerusalem temple specifically in today’s lesson text, he does
seem to have it in mind. We know that he was a frequent visitor to the temple courts when in the
holy city (see Acts 3:1; 5:42). If he were in Rome at the time he penned 1 Peter, he also would
have witnessed the massive stone structures of that imperial city. These included the colossal
structures of the Temple of Jupiter and the original Pantheon of Agrippa.
We should remember the general context and purpose of Peter’s letters: advice on how to live
as Christians in the midst of hostile nonbelievers. Peter draws on his deep knowledge of the Old
Testament and his rich Jewish heritage to present his case for the church as a holy, exemplary
people who are dedicated to the service of God.
I. CHOOSING A SPIRITUAL DIET (1 PETER 2:1–3)
A. ELIMINATE TOXIC FOOD (V. 1)
1. Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every
kind.
Peter begins his advice on spiritual diet with a list of five attitudes and actions that should be
avoided by believers. They are toxic and will poison the soul. He divides the five into three
groupings.
First, he exhorts his readers to eliminate all malice. This has the sense of evil actions in
general. Such actions can be motivated by greed, spite, jealousy, or other moral failings. But the
result is an action that intends to harm another person. The word malice can have the connotation
of “ugly,” the opposite of what is beautiful or lovely (see Philippians 4:8).
The second grouping consists of deceit, hypocrisy, and envy. These are attitudes or personality
traits. Deceit is an orientation of general dishonesty. It describes persons who may be counted on
to lie if it benefits them in some way. Hypocrisy describes deep insincerity. The hypocritical
person will play whatever role is most beneficial to him or her on a personal level. Today, we
would describe this as “phoniness.” The third attitude in this grouping is envy. This bitter,
restless spirit always begrudges the success or nice possessions of others. Envy is the opposite of
gratitude, of contentment with what God has given to you (see 1 Timothy 6:8).
The last of the three groupings consists of the fifth spiritual poison of slander of every kind.
This verbal back-stabbing behavior is the manifestation of the previous three: a deceitful person
who feigns innocence and friendship yet harbors deep resentment and envy. Such persons work
behind the scenes to damage the reputation of those whom they dislike.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?


Which of the unhealthy, toxic attitudes and actions Peter mentions gives Christians the most trouble?
How do we lay these aside?

B. THRIVE ON HEALTHY FOOD (VV. 2, 3)


2, 3. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your
salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Peter has already reminded us of the eternal Word of God as that which results in our new birth
as believers. He pictures it as spiritual seed planted in our souls (1 Peter 1:23–25, last week’s
lesson). Now he expands this to teach us that the Word (spiritual milk) is also a source for
ongoing growth.
Just as the newborn baby denied nourishment will die, so will the Christian who neglects
God’s Word. For Peter, this is primarily the Jewish Scriptures, our Old Testament. But Peter also
realizes that the New Testament Scriptures are coming into existence in his day (2 Peter 3:16).
Even in his old age, Peter loved Scripture. He testifies that he, the great apostle, continued to
grow spiritually by absorbing more truths from God’s Word. He acknowledges this by thanking
the source of the Word, our Lord who is good.
People are more cautious these days about what ingredients are included in the foods they eat.
Some avoid trans-fats, preservatives, and various additives. But how careful are we about our
spiritual diet? Do we shun the unhealthy and feast on the healthy in this realm?
MILK
Milk is an essential ingredient of life, particularly for newborns. For virtually all mammals,
milk is produced for the newborn by the mother. In fact milk production is tied directly to the
birth of the infant; without pregnancy and birth, there is no milk production.
As a city-bred boy, I did not initially understand this. It wasn’t until I was in graduate school
that I realized the connection. I thought cows produced milk as automatically as sheep produce
wool, not realizing the gestation of a baby is required to initiate milk production.
Those who promote the consumption of milk point out that it provides essential nutrients,
vitamins and minerals. Chief among these is Vitamin D and calcium, but milk (and other dairy
products) also provide healthy amounts of protein. Evidence exists that milk also provides some
anticarcinogens. A key benefit for nursing infants is that mother’s milk provides antibodies to get
the baby off to a healthy start. These have both antibacterial and antiviral properties. In fact,
mother’s milk seems to have exactly the right amount of protein, calories, and antibodies to keep
a baby healthy.
Peter and others of the first century certainly were not aware of all these scientific facts. Even
so, Peter presumed the healthy practice of babies being fed milk. Peter knew what he was talking
about. Just as a physical milk is crucial to the health and vitality of the baby, so is spiritual milk
essential to the health and vitality of the infant Christian. The Bible tells us that eventually we
are to move from milk to the meat of the Word of God (1 Corinthians 3:2; Hebrews 5:11–14).
But milk comes first. —J. B. N.
II. CHOOSING A BUILDING MATERIAL (1 PETER 2:4–8)
A. BLOCKS FOR THE WALLS (VV. 4, 5)
4. As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to
him—
In the verses that follow, Peter displays the value of Scripture by weaving together several
themes from the Old Testament. In so doing, he intends to encourage his beleaguered readers. He
begins this section by drawing on Psalm 118:22. This passage is applied by Jesus to his own
person in Matthew 21:42. Peter himself used it in his earliest preaching (Acts 4:11).
God’s building project is a spiritual house made up of people. It started with the first chosen
and living stone, namely Jesus. But he was rejected by his human evaluators. They had no
insight into the fact that Jesus, the Son of God, was the most precious of all human beings. This
lack of recognition led to Jesus’ death (see 1 Corinthians 2:8). This does not negate the truth that
Jesus is indeed the cornerstone for the church (see Ephesians 2:20).
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
In addition to Jesus himself, what are some things that people reject that God considers precious? How
can we make sure we continue to have God’s point of view on these things?

5.… you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood,
offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?


What does it mean for you to be a “stone” in God’s house?

One stone does not make a building no matter how immense it may be. God’s spiritual house
requires other living stones. These are the believers—us.
Peter also now reveals the nature of this spiritual house. It is a temple, a place of worship. It is
where priests offer sacrifices to God. Yet it is a spiritual temple, and the sacrifices are spiritual
in nature. Too often, we view the church as a place where our needs are met. Peter gives us the
picture of an organization devoted to service, to self-denial, to commitment because we are a
holy priesthood.
Peter is not saying that the priestly class of God’s people has been eliminated. He is saying,
rather, that it has been expanded. It now includes all believers. It is not that I don’t need a priest
because I am now a priest. It is, rather, that any believer can minister to me, and I can minister to
any fellow believer. I can perform intercession, that most important of priestly functions, by
praying for another believer at any time or place. There is no longer a need for designated
intermediaries as was the case with the Old Testament levitical priesthood because we can all
assume this function.
B. CUSTOM CORNERSTONE (V. 6)
6. For in Scripture it says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame.”
Peter returns to the Old Testament to reinforce the divine plan for Christ to be the cornerstone
of the church. By using a free quotation of Isaiah 28:16, Peter emphasizes that Jesus is the
essential stone of the building, that Jesus is the chosen stone, and that Jesus is the precious stone,
God’s very Son. This description is followed by a promise: faith in God’s essential, chosen, and
precious Messiah will be rewarded.
C. WORK-SITE HAZARDS (VV. 7, 8)
7. Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
“The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone,”
Not every building stone delivered to a construction site can be used by the stonemasons. One
might have a small crack that a mason knows will grow and become a disaster in later years.
Another might have an unsightly blemish that will detract from the beauty of the finished
building. This kind of evaluation process is natural. Similarly, when Jesus confronts us with his
claims, it is natural for us to evaluate the truthfulness of those claims. We dare not reach the
wrong conclusion as the Jewish leaders did! They were the builders who rejected Jesus. Peter
wants believers to find Jesus as precious as the Father does.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?


In what areas of life have you experienced the preciousness of Christ? How do you share this fact with
others?

Peter equates unbelief with disobedience. In this regard, he likely has the unbelieving Jewish
nation in mind. To equate faith with obedience does not imply salvation through works, but
draws on the fact that both believing and obeying require a surrender of the will. Israel has not
surrendered; it has rejected. The marvelous cornerstone of God results in stumbling (next verse).
8.… and,
“A stone that causes men to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall.”
They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.
The Greek word translated makes them fall is the source of our English word scandal. Paul
uses the same Greek word to describe the Jewish reaction to his preaching of the cross in 1
Corinthians 1:23. The Jewish nation of Paul and Peter’s day is scandalized to think that its
Messiah had to be executed as a common criminal on a Roman cross.
Peter is resigned to this state of Jewish unbelief. He understands that God in his foreknowledge
is aware that the enemies of the cross will reject the gospel, thus they were destined for this. We
can be sure, however, that Peter’s heart longs for the salvation of his nation, as does Paul’s
(Romans 9:1–3).
Visual for Lesson 10

Point to this visual as you introduce the last question on the previous page. Also ask, “What life
changes will you yet make for Christ?”
OF CLOUDS AND LININGS
There’s an old saying that “every cloud has a silver lining”; but sometimes a silver lining has a
cloud. There are advantages and disadvantages to almost every situation, depending on what one
is looking for. Whether it’s a cloud with a silver lining or a silver lining with a cloud depends on
one’s perspective.
To a farmer, a smooth, nicely plowed field is the silver lining that can be obtained only after
the cloud of rocks is removed. I read recently of one man’s reminiscences along these lines. As a
14-year-old, he and his dad would drive a tractor with a large scoop bucket across the fields.
They would pick up various rocks, putting them in the scoop. When the scoop was full, they
would dump the rocks in a corner of the field. The whole process was necessary because a rock
the size of a softball could cause serious damage to a very expensive combine. Needless to say,
the rocks were a great nuisance.
Yet what may be a cloud sometimes can turn into a silver lining. In the British Isles, farmers
would be dismayed at the prospect of having to remove large stones that had worked up to the
surface over the centuries. This meant having to engage in the backbreaking work of carrying
those stones to the edge of the field. But this cloud of rocks then became a silver lining of useful
stone fences that separated the fields. Even today many farms there are bordered by these fences.
Jesus is the cornerstone of our faith. But to the disobedient, he is a rock of offense. Sometimes
a person must stumble over this rock of offense to realize how much of a cornerstone Jesus can
and should be. —J. B. N.
III. CHOOSING A HOLY NATION (1 PETER 2:9, 10)
A. SELECTED FOR ROYALTY (V. 9)
9. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God,
that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful
light.
Peter continues to draw parallels between the nation of Israel and the church as he moves to
the language of statehood. He does this to illustrate the nature of the church as the new people of
God.
Peter lists four ways in which the church of Jesus is God’s new nation. First, the church is a
chosen people. Christ’s church has not been granted its status because of its accomplishments,
but because God selected it (compare his selection of Israel, Deuteronomy 7:6).

PRAYER
Holy God, king of all, to you we offer our loyalty, our obedience, and our service. May your name be
praised above all others, and may you build us into a holy church for your glory. We pray this in the
name of your precious cornerstone, Jesus. Amen.

Second, for Peter the church is a royal priesthood. Those of royal lineage were separate from
the priests in ancient Israel. In the church, believers are royalty because of their relationship to
King Jesus. We are also priests in that we minister to one another.
Third, the church exists as a holy nation. The two concepts of holiness and nationhood draw on
promises given to Israel at Mount Sinai immediately before the giving of the Ten
Commandments. There God told the people that he intended them to be “a kingdom of priests”
and “a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). They were to be unlike any other people on the earth in their
dedication and service to God and in God’s favor to them.
Fourth, the church is seen as a people belonging to God. They are his unique possession. God
does not share the church with any other god. He is a jealous God (see Exodus 34:14).
Why was this new people of God chosen? for what purpose? Peter portrays this in dramatic
terms, describing God’s act of choosing his new people as bringing them from spiritual darkness
into the wonderful light of God’s truth. The ultimate purpose, the church’s “reason for being,” is
to declare his praises. The church does not exist for its own pleasure, but to glorify God in all it
does.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?


As God’s chosen generation, royal priesthood, holy nation, and chosen people, how can we show forth
his praises?

B. ELECTED FOR MERCY (V. 10)


10. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received
mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Peter ends this section by alluding to the story of the prophet Hosea and his unfaithful wife,
Gomer. Hosea’s second child was named Lo-Ruhamah, which means “no mercy” (Hosea 1:6).
Hosea’s third child was named Lo-Ammi, which means “not my people” (Hosea 1:9). This was
in stark contrast with God’s promise to bestow mercy and claim “my people” (Hosea 2:23). For
Peter, the extension to non-Jews of the possibility of joining the people of God is a mighty act of
mercy.
CONCLUSION
How would you react if you learned that the Queen of England were coming to visit your
home? Would you clean, paint, and prepare carefully? Or would you let the trash accumulate
until the house smelled like a landfill? Even if we are not British, most of us would feel honored
to have a visit from royalty, and we would want to be seen at our best.
Within the church, there is (or should be) a real sense that all are royals. Do we act like royalty
in the best sense of the word? Do we treat fellow Christians as if they are princes and princesses?
Most of all, do we honor King Jesus in all we do? Are we his obedient servants?
One of the things that distinguished the Jews from other nations in the ancient world was their
awareness of being a chosen people, a holy nation set apart by God for his purposes. This role of
being the holy people of God was continued in the church by its early leaders—leaders such as
Peter. May we honor this role in the year 2010 and beyond as we work toward the unity of
believers as a holy, royal nation for Jesus.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
God continues to build his people.
1

                                                            
1
Nickelson, Ronald L.: The NIV Standard Lesson Commentary, 2009‐2010. Cincinnati, OH : Standard 
Publishing, 2009, S. 89